The Ministry of Youth and Culture in partnership with Ministry of ICT and Innovation have displayed automatic speech and voice recognition technology for Kinyarwanda. The technology aims to underpin the users recording the voice spoken in Kinyarwanda and convert it into text in Kinyarwanda.
The launch was held on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, after more than two year work by different institutions on preserving Kinyarwanda language in digital means.
The technology launched includes Kinyarwanda speech recognition, where a person can speak and change sounds into text, and Text to speech. They also displayed Kinyarwanda dataset, an infrastructure that will help to develop applications for offering various Kinyarwanda based online services.
The Director General of Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy, Amb. Robert Masozera said that Rwanda is the sixth country in Africa, which is going to use this technology to convert speech into text or text into speech for preserving the native language. “In Rwanda, almost 98% of service seekers are Kinyarwanda speakers while those services sometimes are offered in languages spoken by the remaining 2%. It makes Rwandans not feeling free from the service delivered.
The technology use in Kinyarwanda will help preserve and protect our native language for long”, he said. Amb. Masozera adds that the uniqueness of the technology is a database of many Kinyarwanda terms so that the mistakes during translation can be minimized. It will also solve the problem of Rwandans who misspell some words, according to Masozera. The Minister of Youth and Culture, Rosemary Mbabazi said that currently it is impossible to go extra miles without the help of technology, which means that Kinyarwanda is making a great milestone.
“Research indicates that when children learn in their native language, it becomes easier for them to grasp what they learn, which makes it important for us to include the mother tongue in all channels of communication,” she said.
The Minister of ICT and Innovation, Ingabire Paula said that launching of Kinyarwanda dataset marks the beginning of a new era. “The point of displaying some of the works is a crucial step and the beginning of other works that help us to improve the use of Kinyarwanda,” she said.
The displayed technology is scheduled to be online, February 16, 2023 through digitalumuganda.com though some components are still work in progress. Kinyarwanda language is spoken by over 40 million people in the Great Lakes Region.
Along with other three languages English, French and Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda is an official language of Rwanda and is spoken widely by almost all of the native population.
It has recently added to Google translate offline support as 12nd African language.